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Music Cape Breton's Diversity in Unity

Mi'kmaq Two Roads [Video]

From Song of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet, Ragweed Press (1996).
© Rita Joe, 1996

1. Two roads we go, there’s no one else around
Two roads we travel, til happiness we find.
And when we find it, we try with all our heart
To make the most of everything
Two roads we try to win the game.

Spoken Verse 1:
Each one of us travel on two roads,
Sometimes they are good sometimes they are bad.
But whatever road we eventually take
we are the ones who decide.
Sometimes obstacles fall along the way
we try to avoid them.
Sometimes weaknesses take a stranglehold, we work harder.

2. Two roads we go, there’s no one else around
Two roads we travel, the most we look to find.
And sometimes nowhere, the answer we don’t find.
It hurts to lose on everything
Two roads not always there to win.

Spoken Verse 2:
So the road which determines our value
is usually the one with the briar patch,
the hard road proving to ourselves wer have
what it takes to be a success.

3. Two roads we go, there’s no one else around
Two roads we travel, the good and sometimes wrong.
And if we find it, we try with all our heart
Give happiness to others
Two roads we tried, we won the game.

“When I wrote the song “Two Roads,” I was thinking of our Native youth. The road is harder for them – they have peer pressure, trying to be one of the crowd, but always trying to follow the right path as well. Our youth are like the flowers we plant – we nurture them and watch to see how the plant is doing. We try to coax it into a good flowering, always helping it along. We only hope they take the good road. It is hard, but worth it – especially for the happiness at the end.”

Rita Joe, quoted in Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet. Charlottetown: Ragweed Press, 1996: 180.

This selection comes from the film footage of Song of Eskasoni (1993, NFB/Morningtide Films). Directed by Brian Guns, the film celebrates the life, poetry and song of Rita Joe.

Two Roads, 1992. Rita Joe/Brian Guns. Song of Eskasoni Collection. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

Rita Joe

Rita (Bernard) Joe was born in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton Island, on March 15, 1932. At the young age of ten she was orphaned and shortly after was sent to the Indian Residential School, located in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. She later moved to Eskasoni where she met her husband, Frank Joe; they married in 1954. They lived all of their lives in Eskasoni, raising a family of 10 children.

In the 1960s, Rita first began to write poetry, primarily as a mechanism in which to challenge existing negative stereotypes regarding aboriginal people. She wrote about the manner in which the Mi’kmaq viewed the world, about Mi’kmaw traditions, culture and especially about the beauty of the Mi’kmaw language. She believed that her poetry demonstrated a gentle persuasion in changing people’s negatives views of aboriginal people.

Rita’s poetry became celebrated nationally and through her lifetime she went on to publish seven books. She became known as the Poet Laureate of the Mi’kmaq people for her accomplished writings and also received many awards, including the Order of Canada in 1990 and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1997. She also was known for her two song recordings, The Oka Song, and Drumbeat is the Heartbeat of the Nation.

Rita Joe died March 20, 2007 at the age of 75 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.